W3C libwww Using

Before and After Filters

Until now we have not mentioned a lot about what the Library actually can do. The fact is that the core part of libwww actually doesn't do much. All the functionality must be registered by the application - in other words - the application programmer builds a libwww profile for an application by registering a specific set of protocol modules, callbacks and filters. Filters are called before a request is to be issued to the Network, and after when the request has terminated.

All filters are registered at run-time, and filters can be cascaded so that one filter can call other filters and so on. Filters can also start new requests or terminate existing requests, so the set of possibilities is very big. Normally, filters do only handle metainformation about a resource. For example, the authentication filters looks to see if we have been asked to provide some credentials in order to access a URL. If so then it adds a protocol defined header to the request, and if not then the request just proceeds. Handling the actual data object is done by streams which can  modify the contents of a data object.

The Library can handle local and global filters - local filters are associated with a single request and global filters are associated with all requests. That is, if you can decorate a request with a specialized filter or you can use a generalized filter for handling all requests. A global filter is useful if the filter is to be performed very often and local filters can either add to or override the global set of filters.

Often, a before and an after filter needs to share a context which is unique to this set of filters. There are various ways this can be handled by the Library. Either a context can associated at registration time or it can be built while the filters are run. The URL tree is a useful data object for keeping information associated with realms or sets of URLs.

Use the Standard Filters

The libwww distribution package comes with a large set of standard filters. These are filters that can be used in most applications and will do 80% of the job. The standard filters cover the following functions

When the Standard Filters Aren't Enough

In some situations, you can not use the standard filters, for example if you want to get very specific information out of the request or want to interact more actively. For example if you want to keep track of all the redirections performed by the redirection filter then the only way is to roll your own filter. However, the filter mechanism provides the application writer with a powerful method for extending the functionality of the application at runtime and can be used for many different extensions.

Filters can also be nested - that is for example the case of authentication filters and PEP filters. For example, the authentication filter before and after filter are generalized authentication filters that do not know about specific schemes like basic authentication. However, the authentication filters contain a mechanism for registering specific authentication filters like basic and digest, and it will look at the information in the URL tree to see what authentication scheme to call for a particular request.

DocumentationAdding and Deleting Local Filters

DocumentationAdding and Deleting Global Filters

Henrik Frystyk Nielsen, libwww@w3.org,
@(#) $Id: Filters.html,v 1.4 1996/12/09 03:23:50 jigsaw Exp $